Fellow Pisces, friend Mark

comic books

There are very few people for whom I can tell you the date we met. Friend Mark is one of them.

On Sunday, September 12, 1971, my parents dropped me off at the State University College at New Paltz (NY). There was a meal in the basement of Bliss Hall, and I met Mark while standing in line.

We discovered we were both staying at Scudder Hall, he in 110, me in B2. We hung out in each other’s room a lot that year. He would perch on his desk like Snoopy sometimes did on his doghouse, looking like a vulture.

The next night at a mixer, he introduced me to his high school friend, the Okie, who I would marry.

I discovered he collected comic books. For a time, I thought this was strange, but eventually, I started buying my own at the convenience store in nearby Highland. Eventually, we frequented the Crystal Cave, an actual comic book store in downtown New Paltz, where we met future FantaCo dudes Raoul Vezina and Tom Skulan.

In the spring and fall of 1972, he and I went to several antiwar demonstrations in New Paltz, Poughkeepsie, Kingston, and New York City. He was part of the auto brigade that tried to block the New York State Thruway; I was in his car. He was present when I got arrested in May.

At least once, he tried to teach me to drive on that same Thruway stretch between New Paltz and Kingston, but he said it was a terrifying experience.


He and his then-girlfriend MK52 were in the car on August 22, 1974, when the Okie, by then my wife,  chastised me for the 110 miles (177 km) from New Paltz to the  Saratoga Performing Arts Center when we were going to see Joni Mitchell.

I was the best man at his October 1976 marriage to MK52. When I was adrift in late 1977, I ended up staying at their apartment in Schenectady, NY, from December 1977 to March 1978.

In the early 1980s, Mark worked part-time as a bartender. This helped him to appreciate sports and dance music far more than he did when I first met him.

He, along with his cousin Lawrence, started a Mid-Winter tradition almost every February for decades, usually at Mark’s or his friend Barry’s house. The photo is from an event a few years ago. I’ve been to at least two dozen of them over the years.

Mark was a groomsman in my final marriage in May 1999, despite hating wearing a tux. For the record, he looked nice.

In the buildup to the Iraq war, there were massive antiwar demonstrations in over 600 cities all over the world on February 15, 2003. I came down on a bus from Albany to New York City, where between 100,000 and 500,000 people showed up. Somehow, I ran into Mark and his child, who had come down from the Mid-Hudson.

Friend Mark and I see each other regularly; generally, he drives up to Albany from the Mid-Hudson. We talk and solve the problems of the world in a few hours.

There’s undoubtedly other stuff I’ve either forgotten or do not wish to incriminate one or both of us.

The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson is 80

The Beach Boys AND Brian Wilson are touring, separately

Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys is 80 today. I’ve written about the individual and group quite often. Way back in 2007, I noted 15 Big Ones, an album I have only on vinyl that I had not and have not listened to recently.

In 2010, I noted how Brian raps, sort of.

A decade ago, I indicated my favorite Beach Boys songs. The list hasn’t substantially changed. God Only Knows remains at #1, enhanced every time I watch the end of the 2003 movie Love, Actually. If anything, my love for that song was further improved by the BBC Music version from 2014, which I wrote about here.

I reviewed the movie Love and Mercy here. In that post, I also noted the film I’ll Be Me, about former Beach Boy Glen Campbell’s farewell tour.

My favorite series in this blog might have been the family bands, bands with family members, that I undertook in 2014. Of course, I had to write about the Wilson brothers.

Who ARE the Beach Boys?

I noticed that Chicago and Brian Wilson will be performing at Saratoga Performing Arts Center in Saratoga Springs, NY on July 17 with founding Beach Boy Al Jardine occasional member Blondie Chaplin.

Meanwhile, the Beach Boys will be at the same venue on August 18, with founding member Mike Love and longtime group participant Bruce Johnston. The opening act is The Temptations, which has a single lineage.

For me, it’s difficult to think about which is the REAL group. The last time there was no question was a decade ago, when Brian Wilson, Love, Jardine, Johnston, and early member David Marks, put out an album That’s Why God Made the Radio. The “Beach Boys break a record by expanding their span of Billboard 200 top 10s to 49 years and one week. They first graced the top 10 with Surfin’ U.S.A. the week of June 15, 1963.” Then they toured for a limited time.

In any case, happy birthday, Brian Wilson. I wonder what he thinks about that Bare Naked Ladies song?

Musician Bobby McFerrin turns 70

a blackbird, a Martian, an operatic soprano, a small child, and a bebop trumpet

“There is something almost superhuman about the range and technique of Bobby McFerrin,” Newsweek noted. “He sounds, by turns, like a blackbird, a Martian, an operatic soprano, a small child, and a bebop trumpet.”

Back in the early 1980s, I had heard of this a capella singer who performed in the jazz mode, making near orchestral sounds with his voice and body, named Bobby McFerrin. I was familiar with him mostly because every album had a some pop music covers. [Here is a live cover version of the Beatles’ Blackbird.]

In the summer of 1988, I was in San Diego, riding in the car of my sister’s friend Donald, when I heard a song called “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” for the first time. I thought, “That could be a big hit in southern California, but I don’t know if anyone else will buy it.” Of course, it hit the national charts on July 30, and went to #1 for two weeks, starting on September 30. (Here’s one video, and this the video featuring McFerrin and Robin Williams.

Medicine Man

Skip to in 1989, when he formed a ten-person ‘Voicestra’ which he featured on his 1990 album Medicine Music. I happened to catch McFerrin and Voicestra one morning on NBC-TV’s Today show. After a couple songs, I recall that Bryant Gumbel, then the co-host of the show, made an observation. McFerrin had said in a previous interview that he would no longer perform “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”, his only #1 hit. Now Gumbel understood why.
Sweet in the Morning from Medicine Music, featuring Voicestra.
Discipline, Featuring Robert McFerrin & Voicestra

I bought about a half dozen copies of that album to give as Christmas presents in 1990.

I was watching that episode with our brand-new new church choir director, Eric. He was crashing at our apartment until he found a place of his own. A couple years later, he arranged the McFerrin version of the 23rd Psalm for three guys in the choir to sing. Bob, Tim, and with me performed it , with me singing the highest part, all falsetto. On the recording, McFerrin sings all three vocal tracks, overdubbed, himself, which you can hear HERE.

McFerrin has also worked in collaboration with instrumental performers including pianists Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, and Joe Zawinul, drummer Tony Williams, and cellist Yo-Yo Ma. This is Ma and McFerrin’s version of Ave Maria.


My wife and I had the great good fortune to see Bobby McFerrin live at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center on August 6, 1999. From the review, now apparently offline:

Whether conducting the classics, improvising on an original tune plucked from thin air or cavorting within the ranks of the Philadelphia Orchestra, the affable McFerrin charms all in his wake.

Finding descriptive labels for the multitalented McFerrin seems futile. His talent is so broad and diverse that there seems to be nothing he can’t do well, including stand-up comedy. There’s a serious side, too, as the wunderkind leads the likes of the Philly through compositions by major composers such as Sergei Prokofiev and Felix Mendelssohn.

McFerrin’s uncanny ability to do “voices” put the audience on the floor with
all the characters from “Oz,” the most memorable of which was Margaret Hamilton’s Wicked Witch line — “Come here, my little pretty!”

[This was HYSTERICAL.]

McFerrin invited singers in the audience who knew the Bach-Gounod “Ave Maria” to sing along. McFerrin sang every note of Bach’s rippling arpeggios for accompaniment, while several audience soloists sang Gounod’s wonderful melody over the top.
[This was absolutely extraordinary. One of the soloists was only a few rows in front of us.]

The Philly sang (yes, sang) the “William Tell Overture,” for encore.
[A hoot.]

Listen to CircleSong Six from the CircleSong album.


As an Amazon review says:
“Despite the undeniable uniqueness of his gift, Bobby’s music is always accessible and inviting. When he invites his fans to sing along, as he almost always does, few can resist. Inclusiveness, play, and the universality of voices raised together in song are at the heart of Bobby’s art.

“Bobby McFerrin was exposed to a multitude of musical genres during his youth–classical, R&B, jazz, pop and world musics. ‘When you grow up with that hodgepodge of music, it just comes out. It was like growing up in a multilingual house,’ he says.

“Bobby McFerrin continues to explore the musical universe, known and unknown.”

A Bobby McFerrin discography.

Bobby McFerrin turns 70 today.

Edited from a 2010 post.

Janet Jackson @ SPAC – July 26, 2018

Toward the end of the night, Janet Jackson showed photos of her father Joe Jackson, who passed away just last month.

Janet JacksonThe Saratoga Performing Arts Center or SPAC, just 35 miles north of Albany, is a venue where I’ve seen dozens of concerts. But none recently until I saw Janet Jackson last month with my friend Mary from church.

Janet is the youngest of the musical Jackson clan who I used to watch as Penny during the latter days of of the TV show Good Times. The Times Union reviewer is correct, that she “is one of the most important and successful artists ever.”

I’ll admit that I was much more familiar with the early work of Janet Jackson, the Control (1986) and especially the Rhythm Nation 1814 (1989) albums. Fortunately, she performed generous chunks from each.

It was clear that she wanted to both address the State of the World, the title of the opening video as well as the name of the tour, and to have her fans have a dance party. At 52, she has a LOT of energy, as did her eight dancers, along with a four-piece band and a DJ.

The Troy Record reviewer noted: “Toward the end of the night Jackson showed photos of her father Joe Jackson, who passed away just last month, during her 1997 hit Together Again. Michael Jackson, Janet’s brother, also showed up on the stage’s big screen during Scream, a song they released together in 1995.

We were glad to have gone. As Mary noted, “Fun show, great music, amazing dancing.” We were REALLY glad that it didn’t rain, because we had lawn seats and did not want to be sitting in a sea of mud. That’s something the younger selves could have endured. My thanks to my ticket benefactor, so the only expenditure was the $10 parking charge.

Listen to Janet Jackson:

The Skin Game Part I
The Knowledge

Miss You Much

What Have You Done for me Lately
The Pleasure Principle

All For You

What About

Together Again
Scream (with Michael Jackson)

Rhythm Nation
State Of The World

It’s odd that I haven’t been to SPAC in a while. I saw Joni Mitchell there in 1974 (Miles of Aisles tour), Talking Heads in 1984 (Stop Making Sense), Bobby McFerrin in 1999 with the Philadelphia Orchestra, other orchestra and ballet performances, at least a half dozen Jazz Festivals, and the 1998 folk festival with Lyle Lovett, Joan Baez and many others.

We gotta get out more.

Jingle Award: The E-Ticket

I recognize the library as the remedy to all of life’s problems.

Jingle gave me an award, and the rules of the award say – they ALWAYS say – you’re supposed to tell seven things about yourself. Well, OK, but I’m going to cheat and tell a story, with the items thus revealed.

The Wife, at my encouragement, went to see Bill T. Jones at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center a week ago, on Thursday night while I stayed home with the daughter.

1. I appreciate dance, but don’t go out of my way to see it.

I heard about this particular dance about Abraham Lincoln from watching Bill Moyers Journal on PBS.

2. I miss watching Bill Moyers.

My wife went online to order the tickets on Wednesday, but you’re supposed to print your ticket or tickets, which basically is a bar code or a bunch of bar codes. We experienced the same thing when we went to see Cats at Proctors recently.

3. I hate the cost-saving measure (on their part) of having the customer have to print the ticket.

Oh, and not incidentally, these tickets, almost invariably, are UGLY. I have tickets to shows I went to years or even decades ago that I’ve kept; these are NOT keepers.

Well, our desktop computer was being cranky – again – and the Wife ordered the tickets on the laptop, from which we had never printed.

I suggested rehooking the Internet connection doohickey –

4. I am not particularly technologically savvy, except in the eyes of those who are even less so

to the desktop, see if it worked again, and try to print from there.

Thursday night, I get home from work, and the Wife said she didn’t print the ticket yet. Yikes – had she called me, I would have printed the ticket at work and brought it home.

5. I HATE dealing with things at the last minute when it is avoidable; sometimes, it’s not avoidable, but…

She said that I said that I could just take the printer cable to the laptop and print that way. I said that’s NOT what I said. I said to take the Internet cable and reconnect it to the desktop and try to print from there.

6. I HATE it when people say that I said things I didn’t say.

So I made the switch, but unfortunately, the desktop was dormant for so long that I was going to have to reboot it – WHICH TAKES FOREVER – and it’s now 6:30 pm for an 8:00 show that’s a half-hour away.

I said, “You should go to the library and print your ticket from there.”

7. I recognize the library as the remedy to all of life’s problems.

And so she did, successfully, print her ticket at our neighborhood library – YAY, neighborhood libraries! – went to the show and had an enjoyable time.

And after she left, I DID try to link the printer to the laptop, but the laptop required software for which I did not immediately know the location.
And I’m supposed to bestow this award on others. If you are reading this, and I’ve never bestowed anything on you before, consider yourself bestowed.

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